Posts Tagged ‘England’

Unemployed claimants will be required to use a new government job search website and face benefit sanctions if it shows they are not trying to find work.

The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has hailed the Universal Jobmatch scheme – which will operate in England, Scotland and Wales – as a brilliant revolution in the labour market. It has already started nationwide on a trial basis. The website was developed by the commercial job search firm Monster UK,.

scheme will operate in England, Scotland and Wales.Currently jJobcentres currently only require unemployed people to look for jobs three times a week, but that requirement is likely to increase now it will be considered easier to seek work.

So far, 370,000 companies and 690,000 jobseekers have signed up, and 425,000 jobseekers have already voluntarily given permission for their jobcentre adviser to access their profile, a way of increasing the advice they get on issues such as the preparation of CVs.

Duncan Smith said it would be mandatory for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants to use the site from early in the new year, but no JSA claimant would be required to allow their jobcentre adviser to see any of their activity on the site.

The website can automatically alert jobseekers to appropriate vacancies in their area.

The service will not just be open to claimants, but also to those in work, a vital requirement for universal credit, the new integrated benefits system due to be launched in the autumn of next year.

Employers can log on to locate jobseekers in their area and obtain scores that take into account the jobseeker’s appropriate experience, distance of residence from workplace, skills, and willingness to relocate.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) work services director, Neil Couling, said: “This is the biggest game-changer in the labour market in 27 years. It changes jobseeking from a passive, slow process to one that is dynamic, fast and 24/7.”

Since last month’s launch of the scheme, 160m job searches have been made. The scheme is expected to manage more than 10,500 new vacancies and 1m-plus job searches each working day by next August, nearly 80% of the total DWP caseload.

There are no plans at present to require claimants on employment and support allowance to use the system, which will be available to those without a computer in libraries and jobcentres.

The Universal Jobmatch website has been criticised by some who fear it will be used as a means of identifying and sanctioning those not seeking work, or could lead to breaches of privacy. There are also claims that the scheme will be vulnerable to sabotage, as bogus jobs or jobseekers are put on the site.

Duncan Smith said only 6,000 jobs had been blocked off the site as inappropriate and 27 bogus employers removed since the launch of the scheme. He said the scheme would be especially helpful in industries with high labour turnover, such as care services.

Duncan Smith said the schemewould free jobcentre advisers to spend more time with jobseekers that needed intensive help.

The site has a dropdown menu requiring jobseekers to explain why they have not applied for a job and are offered a range of reasons including, “job does not match my interests; is not in my desired industry; does not match my skills; is below my salary requirements; is too far away from my home; have already applied for the job; does not interest me”.

Duncan Smith said: “Jobseekers will be able to turn down jobs, but if the adviser thinks they are pretty specious reasons, he may call you in and say, ‘We think you should be applying for these jobs’.”


Ali G makes a comeback, Ashley Roberts and Kimberly Wyatt on the red carpet and Jack Whitehall becomes the King of Comedy


Jack Whitehall looks like a gender reassigned barbie

Jack Whitehall looks like a gender reassigned barbie

There were plenty of LOLs last night at the British Comedy Awards and a festive sprinkle of controversy, too.

Ali G returned to collect a special award for Outstanding Achievement – more than a decade after he was named Best Newcomer at the event.

Obviously the brains behind the man from Staines, Sacha Baron Cohen, didn’t miss the opportunity for some edgy gags.

Making a reference to his gold outfit, he said: “A lot has changed in ten years, times are tough. I’ve even had to start getting my tracksuits from second hand clothes shops.”

Before turning around to reveal the word ‘Savile’ printed on the back.

Youthful comic Jack Whitehall was crowned King of Comedy at the Channel 4 bash.

Other winners include Charlie Brooker, named Best Comedy Entertainment Personality, and Harry Hill, whose TV Burp show was named the Best Comedy Entertainment Programme.

The award for Best Sitcom saw The Thick Of It, Rev and Twenty Twelve all lose out to Julia Davis’s SKY show Hunderby, which was also named Best New Comedy Programme.

The full list of winners follows:

Best Comedy Entertainment Personality – Charlie Brooker

Best Sitcom – Hunderby

Best Male TV Comic – Lee Mack

Best Comedy Entertainment Programme – Harry Hill’s TV Burp

Best Comedy Breakthrough Artist – Morgana Robinson

Best TV Comedy Actress – Rebecca Front

The Writers Guild of Great Britain – Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer

Best TV Comedy Actor – Peter Capaldi

Best Female TV Comic – Jo Brand

Best Sketch Show – Cardinal Burns

Best New Comedy Programme – Hunderby

Outstanding Achievement – Sacha Baron Cohen.

school mealsCouncil leader says scheme is quickest way to raise educational standards while tackling problems of poor nutrition

One of Britain’s most economically deprived towns has announced ambitious long-term plans to provide free breakfast, milk and lunch to all its school pupils, amid concerns that rising numbers of its children are going hungry or failing to receive a healthy diet.

Blackpool, England’s sixth most impoverished local authority, is to launch a three-month pilot scheme in January that will provide a nutritious breakfast of fruit juice, cereal and toast, together with a mid-morning drink of milk, to all its 12,000 primary school pupils.

The scheme is potentially one of the boldest attempts yet to tackle what is seen by many as a deepening crisis of food poverty in the UK, particularly among low income families.

Almost a third of children in Blackpool live in poverty, and the council said it was concerned that many more from low-income working families “on the cusp” of free school food and milk were suffering nutritionally because working parents hit by the recession were unable to afford the cost.

If the £700,000 pilot is a success, the council hopes to adopt the scheme on a permanent basis at a cost of £2.1m a year, with a long-term aim of providing universal free lunches as well as widening participation to the town’s 7,500 secondary school pupils.

The leader of Labour-controlled Blackpool council, Simon Blackburn, said the scheme was the quickest and most cost-effective way to raise educational standards while tackling linked problems of poor nutrition and economic poverty. “Big problems call for bold solutions,” he said.

Blackburn admitted the scheme was hugely ambitious at a time when the council was having to make tens of millions of pounds of spending cuts, but dismissed suggestions the scheme should not be considered as a priority or that the council was wrong to foot the bill for poor parenting. “If we did not have to do this it would be great. Some parents should be feeding their kids, but they are not. That’s not the childrens’ fault. If local government is going to be relevant it has got to meet the challenges it actually faces.”

On his blog, Blackburn wrote: “A recent survey of schoolchildren suggests that some of our older pupils are more likely to have used alcohol or tobacco in the last week than they are to have eaten breakfast or had five portions of fruit and veg a day. For years, we have complained about this – but now is the time to actually do something about it.”

Just two or three English councils currently provide free school meals to all primary school pupils, while the Welsh government provides free school breakfast to nearly three quarters of its primary schools. It says the scheme has improved attendance, discipline, behaviour and concentration levels among pupils.

The Blackpool scheme comes as a survey by the Children’s Society charity found serious concerns among school staff about the levels of hunger among pupils. Almost three quarters of the teachers surveyed said they had seen pupils coming into school with no lunch and no way to pay for one.

The study, based on a survey of around 570 teachers, reveals nearly half (45%) said that children are often, or very often, hungry during the school day. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents reported that teachers were providing pupils with food or money for meals if they turn up for lessons hungry.

One teacher told the survey: “Last month I found two girls sat on the toilet floor sharing one’s packed lunch because the other girl had no lunch money.”

The report cites research saying a quarter of children entitled to free school lunches took packed lunches instead because they feared being stigmatised. But the survey found 40% of teachers believed that packed lunches were unhealthy.

One told the survey: “I have seen a child with a packet of Haribo sweets for his lunch – we had to arrange for the child to have a sandwich. This is not an isolated case.”

The survey broadly reflects the findings of a Guardian Teacher Network survey carried out in June for the Guardian’s Breadline Britain project, in which 83% of teachers said had seen pupils arrive at school hungry, and 55% said they took in food or fruit to give to children who had gone without breakfast.

The Children’s Society estimates that 1.2 million school age children in England are not getting free school meals – and 700,000 are not entitled to them. It calls for free school meals to be extended to all children in families receiving universal credit, a move it says would lift 100,000 youngsters out of poverty.

The shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson said: “This report is further worrying evidence of the impact that the Tory-led government is having on the most disadvantaged children, with family budgets stretched to breaking point and services like breakfast clubs cut back across the country.

“I welcome the fantastic work that a number of Labour councils like Blackpool are doing to combat hunger, but it is clear that this is a national issue.”

The government scrapped the last Labour administration’s plans to extend free school meals to all children below the poverty line back in 2010, putting the £110m earmarked for the scheme into a fund to raise pupil attainment in struggling schools.

Skyfall has become the most successful film in British box office history.

The 23rd official installment of the James Bond movie has so far earned a stunning £94.3million ($152million) according the producers of the blockbuster.

In just over 40 days, the film which stars Daniel Craig has outdone the efforts of the 2009 adventure film Avatar which in 11 months made £94.0million.

Although the figures do not take inflation into account, co-producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli revealed how proud they are of how well the 007 movie has done.
In a statement they said: ‘We are very proud of this film and thank everybody, especially Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes, who have contributed to its success’.

The motion picture which sees Bond and his spymaster M battle villain wizard Silva, played by Javier Bardem, received rave reviews when it was released in October.

Directed by Sam Mendes, the film bagged $870million in ticket sales around the world, according to movie tracking site

Dave says –
I have to wonder when i read this type of news
Exactly what defines a british movie these days?
Is there a quota system in place ?
Or are half the production company actually Polish/ Nigerian etc ?

However globally, the spy movie is yet to match Avatar’s record ticket sales which satnds at $2.8billion.

And reports on the same website suggest that the James Cameron’s film ranks 14th in cinema history, with the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind in pole position.

In November it was reported that Daniel Craig is being paid over £31million to play the British spy in two more outings.

The deal makes Craig, 44, the best-paid Bond to date, even taking into account the effects of inflation on his predecessors’ paypackets.

It is a far leap from his first Bond role which saw him earn £1.9million in Casino Royale in 2006, and also the £4.4million he received for Quantum of Solace in 2008.

Craig received £10.7 million for Skyfall, which is more than the £7.5million paid to his predecessor Pierce Brosnan for The World Is Not Enough in 1999 and the £10.3million for Die Another Day in 2002.
The financial deal will see him placed near the top of Hollywood’s leading men – vying for position just below Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Britain is bracing itself for flooding as heavy rain is predicted to sweep across the country in the next few days.










In some parts of south-west England and Wales, there has already been between 15mm and 20mm of rainfall overnight. The rain is expected to move further east today.

More heavy rain will hit tonight and rainfall could hit levels of 30mm by Saturday.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for south-west England, the West Midlands and Wales. It issued a yellow warning, which urges people to be prepared.

‘Periods of heavy rain are likely across the southern half of Wales, south-west England and the south-west Midlands from the beginning of Friday until Saturday morning,’ said the Met Office.

‘It is looking increasingly likely that one area of heavy rain will move through during the small hours of Friday followed by a drier interlude, before further heavy, persistent rain moves eastwards later on Friday into the early hours of Saturday.

‘However, there still remains considerable uncertainty in the details of the heavy rain by late Friday and the warning may be adjusted further as the event approaches.

‘The public should be aware of the possibility of disruption to travel due to localised flooding.’

Nick Prebble, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: ‘It’s going to be a wet one.

‘The spell of rain from overnight should clear away during the day, but another pulse will move in later bringing some heavy bursts.’

The Environment Agency has 18 flood alerts in place in the south-west, Midlands, Anglian and north-east regions. Three flood warnings are in place in the north-east.

Met Office forecaster Greg Dewhurst said heavy rain began to move in across Devon, Cornwall and southern Wales late last night with up to 20mm falling in places during this morning.

Temperatures will reach 15C in southern areas, 17C in London and 14C in the north.

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Salford University is using social media to try to get 930 houses back into use. There are another 24,070 in the city region‘s ten authorities

 Wanted: owners, and then residents. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Years ago when I was a cub reporter in Bath, I remember investigating the case of a pretty but forlorn and boarded-up end of terrace house whose ownership was beyond the means of anyone to find out.

In the end, the city council obtained an instrument called an Unknown Ownership Compulsory Purchase Order which allowed it to circumvent the lengthy and probably unrewarding business of trying to find out who owned the property and why it had been allowed to decay.

In such cases, however, money usually has to be paid into court, in case the owner turns up later like a character in a novel by Charles Dickens. That isn’t viable in the current economic climate with councils beset by spending cuts. Maybe the law could be tweaked.

In the meanwhile, Salford University is about to help the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities with another set of novel proposals to find the owners of 930 empty houses on their patch. The need for them hardly needs emphasising: there are 100,000 people on Greater Manchester‘s combined social housing lists.

The 930 unused homes might sound paltry in such a context, but they are potentially only the beginning of a much larger exercise. The ten councils which make up the area, Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan, estimate that they have 25,000 empty houses altogether.

How do you find their owners? That is what the joint exercise is all about, and it isn’t going to be easy. As the university’s Housing and Urban Studies Unit says:

The reasons for being the owner of an empty home are extremely diverse and difficult to address. Homeowners can be located almost anywhere, be of any ethnic or age profile and may be unwilling or unable to do anything with the house due to finance, emotional attachment or family breakdown.

They may also be dead, intestate or occasionally unaware that they actually are a property owner. But on the optimistic side, the housing unit which will be working on the project with the university’s Business School, believes that the IT revolution could have untapped potential

When you consider the extraordinary access to information of all kinds which is now available online, and look at the many stories of long-lost relatives rediscovering one another via search engines, the approach sounds promising. Dr Lisa Scullion, who will work as researcher on the project for the Housing and Urban Studies Unit, says:

This is not only a widespread problem, but a difficult one to solve But by adopting some new ways of thinking – such as the use of social media – we’re hopeful that a method can be developed that will allow us to increase the number of homes being used as they were intended to be, when they were built.The second phase of the project, once owners are traced, will be to use IT and social media to help them cope with getting homes back into use. This could be through sale or transfer, or management by a housing association; the joint team hopes to take as much trouble out of the process as swift links to appropriate partners can provide.

The project has been funded through the Government’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership which encourages academics to share new thinking with public bodies, business and others outside what were once known as ivory towers.

If you can help at all, contact the Housing and Urban Studies unit here.









River defences across the north of England are under pressure following torrential downpours, with weather warnings issued across the country, but there are precautions you can take

More than 300 homes have been flooded in the north of Englandafter almost twice the average rainfall for September drenched parts of St Helen’s in Lancashire and Morpeth in Northumberland in 48 hours.Flood warnings and alerts remain in place in areas of the north and south-west of England.

The Met Office, Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency all offer advice to the public on any threat posed by the weather.

 The Met Office warns the public about “severe or hazardous weather which has the potential to cause danger to life or widespread disruption” through its National Severe Weather Warning Service. Warnings can be issued for rain, snow, wind, fog and ice and are given a colour depending on how likely it is a weather event will occur and what impact it may have. Green means no severe weather; yellow ups the ante to “be aware”; amber means “be prepared”; red means “take action”.

 The Environment Agency issues flood risk announcements for England and Wales with three levels of severity: flood alerts (meaning “flooding is possible, be prepared”); flood warnings (“flooding is expected, immediate action required”); and severe flood warnings (“severe flooding, danger to life”).

 It issues these across seven regions: Anglia, the Midlands, the north-east, the north-west, the south-east, the south-west, and Wales. On its website you can look at specific flood risk locations and view maps. In Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agencyissues alerts on the same scale.

For those in areas liable to flooding, it makes sense to sign up to the Environment Agency’s Floodline, a free service which sends a message to your phone or email when flooding is expected.


What will the emergency services do?

Emergency services do not automatically have to act when a flood alert has been issued, but they will monitor potentially affected areas more closely. Local authorities work with the police, fire and rescue services as well as the Environment Agency to co-ordinate responses during severe flooding.

 If there is a major flood incident, it is the police who co-ordinate the emergency services and help with the evacuation of people from their homes where necessary (they will also issue warnings to motorists and close roads where necessary). The fire service is primarily responsible for saving lives, but it may also pump out floodwater (contact your local service to ask about this – there may be a charge).

 The emergency services advise people to listen to local radio and TV for announcements. You should also check with your local authority for updates. If the flooding is serious, be prepared for the emergency services and your local authority to evacuate you.

 There is a flood alert for my area. What should I do?

Tune in to the local radio station so you can keep up with what is going on and to check the local weather forecast. It might be sensible to locate a battery or wind-up radio in case the power supply is hit.

 Prepare a flood kit: home insurance documents, torch, warm waterproof clothing, first aid kit and prescription medicine, bottled water and non-perishable food, baby food and care items.

 Think about who will need help to get out of danger, including vulnerable neighbours and pets.

The alert has changed to a warning – what now?

Turn off your gas and electricity. Move family, pets, important and precious items (including other insurance policy documents, birth certificates etc) to a safe position (the highest floor/attic).

 Put any flood protection products you have in place, including airbrick covers, floorboards (to fit around windows and doors), sandbags (stuff pillow cases or plastic bags with earth if you don’t have sandbags) and sink and bath plugs weighed down by heavy objects to stop water coming up the pipes.

 If there is time also move other items such as expensive furniture, electrical equipment, lightweight rugs and carpets to the top floor in the house, and move your car to higher ground.

 Plug water inlet pipes with towels or cloths, and disconnect any equipment that uses water.

 I’m already flooded – what now?

The most important thing is to stay safe. Co-operate with the emergency services and evacuate your home if told to do so. Call 999 if you are in danger.

 If your home is actually underwater it is too late to worry about saving items, but you should think about what to do once the waters start to recede. Your first step should be to call your insurance company – most have 24-hour emergency helplines.

What if I can’t find my policy document?

Don’t panic, your insurer should be able to find you on its database. Look on its website or call a directory inquiries line to get its number. If you car is underwater you will have to call your motor insurance company as well. Bear in mind you will only be able to make a claim if you have fully comprehensive cover.

 What should I do next?

If you are able to stay in your property but need help to prevent further damage, speak to your insurer before arranging emergency repairs and keep any receipts for work done so you can claim for the cost. Where possible, take photographs to record the damage, as this could help with your claim.

 Remember that water and electricity don’t mix: if your electricity supply is not switched off, ask a qualified person to deal with this. Do not touch sources of electricity while standing in water.

 Don’t throw damaged things away, even if you will need to replace them, without first checking with your insurer. It is likely to want a loss adjustor to assess the damage and work out how much your payout should be. Use a permanent ink pen to mark how high water has risen in every room and make a list of what damage has occurred, including food touched by flood water and anything in your fridge and freezer.

 Keep a note of all phone calls with your insurance company, recording the date, time, name of the person you spoke to and what was agreed.

 Check whether the insurer will pay for the cleaning of your property, or if you are expected to do that.

 What if I’ve had to leave my property?

In the first instance, you may be moved to emergency shelter by the rescue services, but after that you may need to move somewhere else while work is done to make your home habitable again. Building and contents insurance will usually include provision for alternative accommodation if the damage is so great you are unable to stay at home. If you have both types of policy, your building insurer will be expected to take care of your claim for somewhere to stay.

 Most insurers will ask you to approve with them the accommodation you are moving to before your stay begins. Sadly, they are unlikely to stretch to the Ritz – alternative accommodation is supposed to be in keeping with your normal lifestyle, so for most people that will mean a standard hotel or B&B, at least in the short term.

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I really feel for people caught in weather like this – I know , as an Englishman it is our national pastime to complain about the weather – but some of these places are being hit for the third or fourth time . And all I have to worry about is a damp cellar . Personally my advice would be once everything is secure – go find a nice dry pub on high ground !